Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 June 2019

Ramadan 2019: how to convert to Islam

Thousands of UAE residents join the faith every year

Friday prayers take place at Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque during Ramadan. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Friday prayers take place at Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque during Ramadan. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Becoming a part of the world’s fastest growing religion is a simple process.

All that is required is repeating two lines called the Shahada, the profession of faith.

And though the words “no God but Allah and Muhammed is His messenger” are straightforward, it can be an emotional journey for new Muslims.

Many of them break into tears while others are filled with an overwhelming sense of regret over past sins, said a representative from the Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Islamic Culture.

Every year thousands of UAE residents enter Islam - more than 3,000 converted with one charity, Dar Al Ber Society, in 2017.

And numbers increase during the month of Ramadan.

Each month, more than a dozen residents will visit the centre o become Muslims, these numbers double during Ramadan.

“I think it is because they see the sense of community and see Muslims fasting and praying,” he said.

The actual process is "simple,” he said.

“We ask for a passport copy, visa, Emirates ID and a passport sized photo. Then we give them a brief introduction about Islam.”

However, these are all formalities and is followed by the Shahada which is the crux of becoming a Muslim.

“If you don’t say that Shahada then nothing you do matters. Your prayers, fasting, and charity will not be counted,” the representative said.

“It is just a few words but they will change your life,” he said.

“I have seen so many people break down crying as soon as they utter these words. It is a mixture of feelings from peace, to elation to repentance,” he said.

The new Muslim is then given a certificate and a collection of Islamic books. Again, formalities and it is the Shahada that is the first pillar of islam.

But what is it that would encourage a person to become a Muslim?

For Aalia Mendoza, 39, from Nicaragua, it was a culmination of events that ended with her saying the Shahada in a small mosque in Ottawa.

“We are not called converts but reverts because we believe that we are all born Muslims and our parents’ are the ones who have changed our religion," she said.

Before becoming a Muslim, the mother of two was agnostic – she did not believe in a single religion. She “reverted” to Islam in 2001 after being a Catholic, Evangelical and seventh-day Adventist.

Her parents were divorced when she was nine because they were of different faiths – her mother was catholic and her father a seventh-day Adventist.

“I've lived my entire childhood being told what to do by my men. Even when I was baptised, it was a man who dunked my head in water," she said.

"I didn’t want to be part of a religion that was controlled by organisations and men. Islam is not like that.”

On a plane to Miami that was reverted back Nicaragua because of the events of September 9/11 she had an epiphany, she said.

“When everybody was saying grace after they announced the attacks, I remember feeling that believing in God was not enough and I needed faith. I felt Islam was the right path," she said.

“I later had a dream while in Nicargua of people saying the Sahada."

Recalling the moment she first spoke the words of the Shahada, she said: “I remember looking at all the smiling faces looking at me and feeling joy. I felt a sense of belonging as soon as I said it. It took three minutes and my life changed forever."

Updated: May 26, 2019 08:01 PM

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